robot hand on keyboard (Zapp2Photo/

Getting started with intelligent automation

As agencies look to automation to lower costs, improve efficiency and achieve higher customer satisfaction, many wonder where to start.  To start them on their journey, ACT-IAC created the Intelligent Automation Primer.

The document defines IA as the marriage of automation with artificial intelligence, but not all automation need be so sophisticated. It can range from desktop automation tools that leverage scripts and macros, to robotic process automation that uses simple rules to process structured data, to enhanced RPA, which addresses more-complex tasks using unstructured data from multiple sources.

Key concepts in the primer include:

  • Smart workflows that integrate human-and software-based tasks, streamline workflows and track a process's status.
  • Chatbots that recognize user input and provide a response.
  • Virtual assistants that tap into a user's context to deliver appropriate responses.
  • Artificial intelligence that includes technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, cognitive agents and computer vision.

Full-blown IA applications, which can "sense and synthesize vast amounts of information and can automate entire processes or workflows, learning and adapting as they go," range from making decisions about text-based information to guiding autonomous vehicles, according to the primer. 

The primer describes 10 use cases drawn from federal, state and local governments where various kinds of automation have reduced data entry and processing time, increased accuracy and improved customer experience.

As organizations begin to implement IA, they must ensure projects align with mission and strategic goals. The primer suggests forming a center of excellence and establishing an executive committee to set strategic direction and ensure consistent application of the technology. Agencies should also carefully examine the impact IA will have on their network and security.

ACT-IAC plans to release updates to the primer based on feedback from agencies and industry, then develop a playbook with instructions on identifying opportunities for automation, evaluating the feasibility, developing a business case as well as the steps to implement a solution. This playbook is currently planned for a late spring 2019 release.

More on the Intelligent Automation Primer can be found here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.


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